I am the Most Wise Baviaan

(notes by Philip Holberton)



First published in Just So Stories for little children, following “How the Leopard Got his Spots”. Listed in ORG as No. 792.

Also collected in:

  • Inclusive verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xiii and xxxiv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xii and xxvii (1941)
  • The Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney, p. 891

The poem

This poem is spoken by a child persuading her father to go for a walk together to escape the visitors who have “come – in a carriage – calling.” Afternoon visits were a social convention in Edwardian days – and very dull for children who would have to wear party clothes and then sit still and keep quiet while the grown-ups gossiped. The proverbial saying “Children should be seen and not heard” was taken literally.

See also our notrs on “I Keep Six Honest Serving-men“”


Notes on the Text

Most Wise Baviaan See the story (p.41 line 9) ‘Baviaan – the barking, dog-headed Baboon, who is Quite the Wisest Animal in All South Africa.’ ‘Baviaan’ is Dutch for ‘baboon’.

skitter  move about swiftly.

melt into the landscape become invisible, as the animals did in the story.

anything anything at all is better than sitting with the visitors.

©Philip Holberton 2017 All rights reserved